Auckland Restaurant Review: Okome Is A Petite Neighbourhood Japanese Spot With Plenty To Love

By Jesse Mulligan
Japanese restaurant Okome’s beef tataki, salad and salmon sushi. Photo / Babiche Martens


Cuisine: Japanese

Address: 30 Enfield St, Eden Terrace

Contact: 022 174 6593

Drinks: Fully licensed

Reservations: Accepted

From the menu: Sashimi $22; salmon sushi $17; deep-fried tofu $15; beef tataki $15; teriyaki chicken skewers $7; chicken meatball skewers $8; wasabi octopus $7; fried oysters $8

Rating: 16/20

Score: 0-7

Not every restaurant review can be of a place as small as this but I love that from time to time we can ignore the 100-seater rooms in the city and drive out to, well, Eden Terrace to experience a neighbourhood eatery that feels full as soon as a second couple is seated.

I came upon this via the “Where we’re eating” column in the latest Dish magazine, and might otherwise never have discovered it — it’s a restaurant space so invisible that even when you go looking you struggle to find it. That’s fine. A city needs spokes as well as hubs, and the idea that the apartment owners on Enfield St have their own, secret Japanese kitchen fills me with joy.

Well, not enough joy to stop me telling the rest of you, obviously. But try and keep it to yourselves.

Okome is small but mighty. Photo / Babiche Martens
Okome is small but mighty. Photo / Babiche Martens

During the day, Okome sells onigiri, a triangular pressing of sushi rice with pretty and delicious toppings. Onigiri is having a moment internationally, and you might legitimately wonder why that trend has reached as far as Sydney but not Auckland.

Okome is a good start. I haven’t driven past during the day but hopefully they’re getting enough lunchtime business from hungry staff at the LIFE church and Auckland’s other major site of religious devotion, the Citta outlet store.

In the evenings they turn into a yakitori (grilled things on sticks) restaurant though they’re not strict about it, offering everything from sushi and sashimi to Japanese-style steak, salads, fried octopus balls and more.

It’s a very small operation with, as far as I could see, one girl out front and one guy out back. English is very limited so I was unable to find out much at all about their story or their food I’m afraid: communication issues are sometimes the price you pay for authenticity. What’s very clear is that they are both working very hard to make this the very best little Japanese restaurant it can be.

The beef tataki at Japanese restaurant Okome in Eden Terrace. Photo / Babiche Martens
The beef tataki at Japanese restaurant Okome in Eden Terrace. Photo / Babiche Martens

There is heaps to order — the dishes are split over three separate menus, plus a blackboard with specials. Drinks are extensive in their own way — not much beer or wine, but some Asahi drafted from a special machine, some spirits and a good list of sakes with lots of information in English under each (these notes would have been useful in Tokyo when my host asked me what I thought of the sake. “It’s nice and … fruity?” I offered cautiously. “No, it is the opposite to fruity,” he sighed.)

The Asahi was cold and fresh and actually so good that as I recall it now, I’m thinking about packing up the laptop and going to finish writing this review with another one. I love wine, white in particular, but there’s something about Japanese (and Thai and Indian) food that makes a beer feel like the best order.

From the moment the food started arriving it was clear things were going to be very good. We shared a generous plate of sashimi, perhaps slightly lower rent than a Masu or Cocoro in its selection of species but impeccably fresh and beautifully cut.

“Sushi was our favourite dish of the night,” says Jesse Mulligan. Photo / Babiche Martens
“Sushi was our favourite dish of the night,” says Jesse Mulligan. Photo / Babiche Martens

Sushi was our favourite dish of the night — wonderful in that slightly indefinable way that elevates proper Japanese food. Of course it checked all the boxes — the rice was warm and perfectly seasoned, the salmon was cold and fresh and the roll tightly wrapped with layers of beautiful white, black and gold and dusted, finally, with tiny bright salmon roe. But there’s a moment you put it into your mouth where all that adds up to more than it should and you’re forced to conclude that something’s been imparted by the magic hand of the chef who prepared it for you.

The yakitori sticks are fun — juicy and chickeny with a little dusting of red chilli powder on the side of the dish. Plating is nice but repetitive — by the time the fifth slab of black granite arrives with a bamboo leaf you’re longing for something different (there’s also a small white jug of soy sauce with almost every dish, which I hope isn’t tipped out when the dishes are collected). Then somebody asked for a potato salad and the thing that came out looked like a champion science project — a lavish, conical structure that made everyone else in the room sorry they hadn’t ordered it.

I loved the raw octopus, marinated in an extremely spicy wasabi dressing. The oysters on a stick were a little too deep fried — like the last thing remaining at a funeral platter — and though it’ll be good for your iron count the cold beef tataki was a bit too much like leftover roast for me. But the tofu is another winner — deep-fried and glazed with miso, it’s a lovely alternative to agedashi — and honestly, at these prices, you can’t really go wrong.

So visit. But perhaps not all at once. Hopefully, Okome will be around for ages — it might not be Auckland’s most important restaurant, but neighbourhood places like this are often the best parts of a truly international city.

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